COAL: Austin A40 Devon – A Rusty Mistake

Why, oh why would I buy such an old junker? The truth is I am a sucker for a cheap but ambitious project. Sometimes it works out fine but quite often it does not. This is one of those instances of overreach in dreams and fall short in execution. Follow along as I try to find a new identity for a rust bucket Austin A40 Devon. It may not have a wonderful ending but the journey has some interesting stops along the way.

It probably is not a great sign when you buy a field car and just about the roughest one in that field. Any guesses on the two in front? I will reveal their identities in the comments later.

Let us start with the positives of this particular Austin. The hood was in good shape as well as the grill. The rear bumper was reasonable in shape as well. And … err … that might be it.

This lovely banjo steering wheel might be the reason I bought the Austin despite all the other rather obvious faults. While not in perfect condition the wheel is at least complete and I love the banjo style.

The rest of the interior was in terrible shape with no real redeeming qualities to it. The front seats were completely absent.

The engine is a 1.2L four cylinder often referred to as a pre B-series since it evolved into the Austin/BMC B-series as used in the MG B and many (many, many) others. The B-series engine is very similar in appearance but they are not interchangeable as the block and head are larger in length and width. The B-series block also had thicker cylinder wall castings to allow for larger displacements.

Looking back I should have considered something like this Fargo pickup instead. Or anything really.

The front wheels were in poor shape and stuck. I gave it a bit of a go with lube and heat to free them up.

The front wheels that came with it for the front were old Toyota rims that someone has hacked to only a very roughly fit. Fine workmanship here.

I do not think the tow truck driver was very amused to haul this heap for me. They told me I was getting a flat bed but this traditional tow truck showed up.

Once home and out of the field one of the rear wheels showed itself to be in rather poor condition as well. My general plan was to take the body off the chassis and put it on a small, mini truck chassis so it would have old school looks with new school drivability. So in theory all the poor condition wheels, suspension, engine, etc would not be required.

As with any field car it needed a massive amount of cleaning. Eventually all the wildlife related bits were cleared out. The floors were more or less complete but worryingly soft at the front.

The Austin A40 must have been a much loved family car at some point. The passenger side sun-visor has “Mom” spelled out with pin cushions. The driver’s side has “Dad”.

While the cleaning was mostly disgusting interior I did find a few neat items including this Famous Player’s movie ticket. It has been a while since a movie only cost seventy five cents.

A more exciting find was this antique car mascot under the rear seat. If you want to guess its identity I will provide the answer at the end of the post.

Next came the stripping portion of the project. After an uncountable number of rusty fasteners were removed the nose came off. I believe the Austin has some Whitworth rather than SAE bolts and fasteners but I managed well enough with a combination of SAE and metric wrenches.

The front suspension probably looks reasonably similar to a MG B owner with a-arms and lever shocks.

Another interesting feature of the A40 Devon is the use of hydraulic brakes at the front but mechanical at the rear.

As I was stripping the interior I found it interesting how much wood was still used in this car. This is the pillar between the two doors.

None of the wood is structural but used to secure the fabric pieces.

After attempting to separate the body from the frame the front around the firewall and front floor collapsed from the rusty underside. I figured I would use the grill and front plus a set of doors. Then I started to create this boot tail from the roof.

I think it might have been do-able but I had a bit of health issue that keep me out of the garage for several months so I ended up parting out the whole lot. The rear axle is now under someone’s trailer. A few of the bits went to someone restoring a better A40. The hacked up body panels were given away to another aspiring hot rodder. The seized engine was turned into a custom table by a local artist. I was able to sell the grill. Amazingly I recovered almost all my money on this turkey. I still have the steeling wheel/column plus a few smaller bits in my garage. Maybe one day I will choose a better basis for a project.

The answer to the hood ornament is a 1935 Terraplane. Unfortunately its tail was broken off but I still sold it on for a few bucks.

My whole COAL series so far